In the scant 10 days since being appointed, the interim SABC board has
hit the ground running and has already held meetings with organised
labour in an attempt to forestall the threatened strike at the public
broadcaster, a parliamentary committee has heard, writes Wyndham Hartley in Business Day.

The interim board was approved in controversial fashion by Parliament earlier this month as opposition parties charged that their views had been ignored and that the African National Congress (ANC) had used its majority muscle to force its choices through. At issue was the ANC’s rejection of the opposition nomination of noted academic and businesswoman Mamphela Ramphele.

Yesterday, the interim board, headed by chairwoman Irene Charnley, brought Parliament’s communications committee up to speed on what it had been doing.

The crucial issues facing the board for the six months that it will exist are the resolution of the threatened industrial action, the cutting of costs and a return to profitability, the resolution of the dispute with former SABC CEO Dali Mpofu, ensuring that the preparations for the 2010 Soccer World Cup are on track, and assisting the auditor-general’s investigation of allegations of financial mismanagement at the broadcaster.

The SABC reported a loss of R839m for the past financial year and has asked the government for R2bn to get itself back on track. Charnley, backed by interim board members Philip Mtimkulu, Libby Lloyd, Leslie Sedibe and Suzanne Vos, said a positive meeting had been held with the unions represented at the SABC, where an offer of 8,5% was made with a final offer to be made on July 31.

Committee chairman Ismail Vadi had to intervene to protect Charnley from MPs questioning how far the SABC was prepared to go, saying that this was a matter between the board and the unions at this stage.

Prabesh Bhana, corporate executive at the auditor-general’s office, told the committee the investigation into allegations by organised labour of financial irregularities had officially begun. Since the committee had asked for the investigation earlier this month, the auditor-general’s office had been establishing what it could and could not investigate and this had now been done, he said. The areas were conflicts of interest in procurements, fruitless and wasteful expenditure and human resource issues.

Click here to read the full report, posted on Business Day's website.